Perry Hall boys coach Jerry Martin did not even realize yesterday's McDonogh Invitational was being scored until halfway through the meet. And even though he enjoyed seeing his school sweep the event, scoring was not his main concern.
"We're doing different things," said Martin of the boys and girls. "It lets us go against a stronger level of competition and see if the kids will step up."
And so they did. The Gators topped North County on the boys (107-87) and girls sides (191-88). As it has for much of this season, depth played a big part in the Perry Hall victories.
Martin and girls coach Marilyn Bevans moved their athletes around to a variety of places. They put younger people in varsity competition against good teams like North County, McDonogh and Meade and also tried people in new events.
Joanna Helm was one who worked on some new things. In addition to her old standbys, the 400 (second) and high jump (second), she continued her tryout of the 300 intermediate hurdles. Helm got off to a good start in that race and cruised to victory.
"Since you're running against good schools, you've got good competition," said Helm, who also ran on the second-place 1,600-meter relay team. "It pushes you to improve yourself."
Natalie Gassman also stepped up. New to track and field, the sophomore captured the discus and shot put with personal bests in both.
Krissy Jost ran in the 3,200 meters. With the cold temperatures and wind whipping across the track, she didn't push matters, but still rolled to an easy victory.
For the boys, Dave Russell set a personal outdoors best in the pole vault. Despite fighting off a strong tail wind, he tied McDonogh's Sean Sullivan at 14-6, but Sullivan won due to fewer misses.
North County and McDonogh also took advantage of the tough competition. For North County's boys, sprinting once again was the name of their game.
The Knights won each individual sprint -- led by Topper Ellis (first in 200 and 400 relay), Toney Fowlkes (first in 110 and 300 hurdles) and Kiki Ellis (first in 100 and second in 200). The Knights were hurt, however, by disqualifications in two relays they would have won.
Kenda Johnson captured the 100 and 200 for the North County girls while Tamiko Mack won the 400 and took second in the 100. Both also ran on the school's victorious 1,600-meter relay team.
"It makes you work harder and run faster going against tough competition," said Johnson. "We like the competition. It's good for us."
Other coaches also tried to put people in unfamiliar territory. For host McDonogh, Sullivan and distance runners Eric Bind and Anders Fristedt did well, but soccer standout Laurie Schwoy also had a good day.
Schwoy impressed many with a strong performance in the 800 meters. The junior, who just came out for track a few weeks ago, gave Perry Hall standout Megan Makowski a fight before losing by 2.3 seconds.
Makowski (2:33.2) led most of the way, but Schwoy (2:35.5) stayed close, making a failed push in the final 200 meters.